Monday 16th July 2012
MYTH: a traditional story, typically involving supernatural beings or forces; a sacred narrative, fable or legend; a commonly-held belief that isn’t true – definitions courtesy of several respected works of reference.
We are, I believe, rapidly approaching a crucial point in history.
The arguments presented in Our Final Century – by Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal – are impossible to ignore. Take your pick from global warming, economic meltdown, fanatical terrorism, nuclear fall-out, warfare, or unstoppable virus: either biological, killing anyone not naturally immune, or digital, demolishing the built-on-sand, office-blocks-of-cards infrastructures of modern life.
To deny the likelihood of an impending catastrophe would be like me claiming that smoking isn’t harmful.
Which brings me to escapism: seen by Marx and Wells as an opiate, by Tolkien as emancipating, and by Bloch as an ‘honest substitute for revolution’.
Does it matter that we are drawn to the fantasy worlds of Eastenders, The Dark Knight Rises, or Fifty Shades of Grey? if we hide under duvets when flood or famine assails others? if we hail athletes as ‘heroes’ or ‘legends’ from the comfort of our armchairs?
Humankind has always created – possibly even needed – idols: from the god of the mountain to the goal-scorer; from martyrs to monsters; from the Madonna to Madonna. Adoration of individuals, real or imagined, seems to me relatively harmless.
However… what concerns me is not so much our apathy, but the debilitating power of perceptions.
Today’s mythologies are more abstract, more subtle. And they feed on fear: what we earn; how we look; our social standing; security for our children and personal property.
The problem with worshipping the (almost supernatural) forces of technology, status, material possessions and – above all – money, is what will become of us when these ‘commonly-held beliefs’ turn out to be no longer true, but merely false gods to whom we may well end up sacrificing everything.